Wilderstein Historic Site
Wilderstein Historic Site in Rhinebeck
Wilderstein, ca. 1917
View of the Hudson River
Margaret "Daisy" Suckley on the Veranda of Wilderstein, 1988
The Dining Room in Wilderstein
Detail of the Circular Tower
Backstory and Context
Looking for a tranquil piece of property to build a family home, Thomas Suckley settled on this gorgeous land located in Rhinebeck along the banks of the famous Hudson River. Frequenting extravagant homes on the Hudson was not uncommon to Suckley, he was derived from two of the most prominent New York families: the Beekmans and Livingstons, both dating back to the American Revolution. With its rolling hills and scenic views, the property fit the criteria for Thomas and his wife, the former Catherine Murray Bowne.
At the time Wilderstein was built in 1852, it was modeled after the Italian villas by architect John Warren Ritch. More than 30 years later, Thomas and Catherine's son, Robert, had the home redesigned by a Poughkeepsie architect named Arnout Canon as the Queen Anne style home it remains today. The simple two-storied structure gained a third floor and a five story circular tower which offered prime views of the Hudson below. The interior was decorated by the New York designer Joseph Burr Tiffany, who inserted a variety of late 19th century designs throughout the home. The lay-out of the gardens and carriage house was the creation of Calvert Vaux, who was inspired by the American Romantic Landscape Style.
The last Suckley to occupy Wilderstein was Margaret "Daisy," who died at the age of 99 in 1991 at Wilderstein. Daisy was the last surviving child of Robert and his wife, Elizabeth Philips Montgomery. In 1980, she established the Wilderstein Preservation, aimed at both restoring and preserving the historic residence she had called home her whole life. The year before her death Wilderstein earned the status of National Historic Landmark.
Historically, Daisy is remembered for her personal closeness to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. A cousin of both Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, it was Daisy who gifted FDR with his most famous Scottish Terrier, Fala, in 1940. After FDR died she kept Fala for a brief period of time, until Eleanor Roosevelt requested him back. Daisy, along with another cousin named Laura Delano, was present in Warm Springs when FDR suddenly died in 1945. One of the FDR Library's first archivists, Daisy continued to serve on staff until 1963.
After Daisy's death, a suitcase of letters between her and FDR were discovered under her bed. Historian Geoffrey Ward obtained the letters and composed a book called Closest Companion: The Unknown Story of the Intimate Friendship Between Franklin Roosevelt and Margaret Suckley. The historic Queen Anne style home on the Hudson River became a historians' treasure trove and the stories continue to be relayed to visitors to this day.
About Us. Wilderstein Historic Site. Accessed June 11, 2018. http://wilderstein.org/explore/about-us/.
Fowler, Glenn. Margaret Suckley, 99, Archivist And Aide to Franklin Roosevelt. The New York Times. July 02, 1991. Accessed June 11, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/1991/07/02/obituaries/margaret-suckley-99-archivist-and-aide-to-franklin-roo....
Tabor, Mary B.W. A New Book Reveals Roosevelt's Bond With a Special Friend. The New York Times. March 28, 1995. Accessed June 11, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/1995/03/28/books/a-new-book-reveals-roosevelt-s-bond-with-a-special-friend.h....
Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area
Wilderstein Historic Site
The Cultural Landscape Foundation